Community Announcements - heidi
How do you handle travel time in games, and how do you keep the players intrigued and content during these periods. How do make going from one place to another fun? And what's the difference in our expectations depending on the type of game we choose to play?

Read our new blog post, where Thomas shares his thoughts on the subject. And let us know what you think in the comments!

http://frictionalgames.blogspot.se/2017/03/traversal-and-problem-with-walking.html

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Rick Lane)

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.>

Before they struck (presumably cursed) gold with Amnesia: The Dark Descent , Frictional Games released a trilogy of shorter first-person horror games under the title Penumbra [official site]. The first of these, Overture, was a bit wonky, and the third, Requiem, completely lost the plot. But the middle entry, Black Plague, is as good as anything the Swedish horror maestros have released since. … [visit site to read more]

Community Announcements - heidi
Time to get to know our executive producer, Fredrik, a little bit better. He shares some thoughts on our future projects, and let you get an insight on how Frictional Games is transforming into a two-project studio.
http://frictionalgames.blogspot.se/2017/02/people-of-frictional-meet-fredrik-our.html
PC Gamer

Last week, I talked to Amnesia: The Dark Descent and SOMA designer Thomas Grip about how Resident Evil influenced the way he designs video games. He told me that the first time he saw Resident Evil, he never realized games could be made in such a way and that every horror game he's worked on has been influenced by Capcom's seminal horror series. 

But our conversation left me with some questions. I wanted to know what he thought the future of horror games held, so over the past week, we talked about what the "Exorcist of video games" looks like and how Frictional Games plans to pursue the telling of innovative stories.

Mat: How do you feel about the future of horror in video games? Do you feel like it's something that could go away at some point, much like how fighting games went out of vogue for a while?

My hope is then that the horror will go away from hunted-by-monster scenarios

Grip: Them going away seems extremely unlikely given that horror is a genre that has basically been around since humans first developed language. As for the future, I think that what we will be seeing a lot more of is horror simulators—games that put more effort into making the core mechanics about horror. As much as I love the first Resident Evil, for the most part, the game has the horror as a sort of thematic layer. At its core, Resident Evil is not about horror—it is about collecting ammo, shooting enemies, and solving puzzles. The horror aspects are just a wrapping on that. Compare that to a game like Alien: Isolation, where the game is really all about avoiding being eaten by the Alien creature. It feels like [Resident Evil 7] is going more in that direction as well. It is the sort of horror design I find the most intriguing and also the one that I think has the biggest impact on an audience. My hope is then that the horror will go away from hunted-by-monster scenarios and try to recreate other types of horror in a playable fashion. For instance, it would be interesting to figure out what the video game version of The Exorcist is.

That's a very interesting idea. As for some of the more popular horror games in recent years, it's hard to think of one where you're not hiding from, shooting at, or being chased by someone or something. What do you think something like The Exorcist looks like in video game form?

Grip: In terms of horror not about escaping from monsters, that was what we tried to dabble with a bit in SOMA. We did add monsters there, so it is obviously not a pure example, but we feel we at least learned from valuable lessons. And the idea is that we continue along that path, so it is totally something we want to explore.

The Exorcist of video games, however? Very hard to say. For one, I think you need to find some interesting play around the idea; for instance, wrapping it all as a sort of detective/mystery narrative. I don't think it needs to be The Exorcist either, just used that as an example where the monster/horror is handled differently compared to a movie like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or similar.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

I guess being a video game limits you in some ways that movies don't. Do you feel that's true or is the more the other way around?

Grip: It goes both ways. Video games can do certain things that movies cannot, and vice versa. It is just that we are so used to seeing our stories in movie form; plus, movies have refined the storytelling process over a long time, and so we tend to consider movies as more versatile. But games also have a wide range of stories that they can tell, and many of them would be very hard to make into movies. For instance, games are very good at using real time—the time it actually takes to do certain things and having that as an engaging element in the story. But in movies that gets boring fast and you have to cut. 

As an example, in a horror game you can have the protagonist conducting a long investigation of a place and really have the audience get the mystery piece-by-piece at their own pace. In movies, this is really hard to do and longer investigations often have to be juxtaposed with something else in order to keep the engagement up. So games have the upper-hand in a lot of storytelling situations.

Do you feel that actually being able to interact with and influence video games through gameplay can detract from a story?

Video games can do certain things that movies cannot, and vice versa

 Grip: The big problem is that videogames can be really fun to play, even if the story is crap. Really old movies are no longer much fun to watch, but old games—Pac-Man for instance—are still very fun. So there has been much less pressure on videogames as a medium to grow its storytelling potential. In movies, people quickly got tired of seeing people sneezing and trains going through tunnels. So there was a lot of pressure on making movies more engaging. But in videogames, we are sort of still happy with that sort of thing—there has not been any urgent need to make games more engaging, story-wise. For the most part, tweaking what we had from the start has been quite successful. 

Then there is also the fact that since books and movies are where we consume most of our stories, we are accustomed to them being presented in a certain way. Structured as a string of plot events at a certain pace. Video game stories don't really apply to those rules, and as such, it is not possible to just cram the Exorcist as-is into a game. And I think this in turn means that many people simply think it is not possible, and never really pursue the idea.

I would definitely say that SOMA focuses on telling a good story a lot more than Amnesia: The Dark Descent does. Is this a sign of you and everybody at Frictional wanting to pursue the telling of great stories that haven't been attempted in video games before? 

Grip: The intent behind SOMA was to tell a story and provide an experience that would only be possible in a video game. We also wanted to make a game where the themes were not just something in a background, but something the game was actually about. I think it went pretty well with SOMA, but I think we can do much better still. We totally plan to continue pursuing that. 

PC Gamer

With Resident Evil 7 just days away from release, I reached out to some of the best horror developers out there to ask them how Resident Evil has shaped their lives and games. Last week, we learned that, without Resident Evil 4, Dead Space would have been System Shock 3. Now, I've talked to Amnesia: The Dark Descent and SOMA designer Thomas Grip about how Capcom's survival horror series has influenced him throughout the years.

The first time Grip had ever seen Resident Evil was when he was flipping through the pages of a game magazine, of which he doesn't remember the name. What he saw of Resident Evil that day, however, is something he'll never forget.

Resident Evil builds so much around letting each section of the game have its own mood and story, and that has been extremely influential.

"I remember there being this big article where it compared the dangers you face to different death scenes in horror movies," he recalled. "That really grabbed my attention... I must have been 15 at the time."

And when Grip first got his hands on Resident Evil, he was blown away, having never seen anything like it before.

"I was really unaware that you could make games like this," he told me. "The mixture of action, exploration, and puzzles was completely new to me, and it fit me perfectly.

"I especially remember one moment when I was talking to a friend over the phone as I was playing, and one of these lizard monsters suddenly jumped out. It took me by surprise, and I just screamed out loud. A game had never made me feel these emotions before, and it was awesome. I craved more!"

In addition to his love for playing the games, Grip told me that his passion for Resident Evil has informed every horror game he's designed. The impact the survival horror series has had on him has been nothing short of huge.

"It has been a guiding light for pretty much everything I have done," he said. "I think one of the most basic features is to have a very scene-centric design approach. What I mean by this is that you think of your encounters less like elements of a level, and more like a certain emotional scene you want to convey. Resident Evil is filled with great examples of this, like the first dog encounter or the shark attack. It can also be less intense sections; for instance, simply walking outside and hearing crickets chirping. Resident Evil builds so much around letting each section of the game have it's own mood and story, and that has been extremely influential."

With all the games Resident Evil has influenced, it's interesting to see the next game in the series, Resident Evil 7, take an approach that is very familiar to Grip and other horror developers. The first-person perspective has become ever-so-popular over the years with games like Amnesia, Outlast, and Alien: Isolation. Now, Resident Evil is taking a stab at it, and Grip couldn't be happier."It is really exciting," he said. "I recently played the demo and I think they had a really nice spin on the first-person horror genre. The demo had many things in common with other weaponless horror, but it still managed to have that distinct Resident Evil feel to it. 

"For the last 15 years, I have basically been doing first-person versions of Resident Evil, and it is awesome to finally have an official version of that."

Resident Evil 7 launches January 24. In the meantime, you can check out our  rankings of every Resident Evil game, from worst to best.

PC Gamer

We’ve been playing stealth games for decades now, infiltrating military bases undetected, choking henchmen from behind and packing ventilation shafts with their naked unconscious bodies. But making sneaking fun isn’t easy. Full spatial awareness, how to communicate your visibility, and reliability of tools and AI behaviors are a hard thing to pin down. Luckily, these games pull it off without disturbing a single dust mote. They’re the best stealth games you can play on the PC right now, and what we recommend for players looking to get their super quiet feet wet. 

Deus Ex

Deus Ex' sandbox structure made it a landmark study in open-ended design. The large environments and varied upgrade tree are designed to give you ways to solve tasks expressively, using imagination and forethought instead of a big gun. Nearly every stealth game on this list borrows something from Deus Ex, and it’s easy to see why.

Deus Ex pulled off experimental, player-driven stealth design in huge, tiered environments. It was the cyberpunk espionage dream, and for many modern developers, it still is. The last two entries in the series, Human Revolution and Mankind Divided, play with similar, more streamlined design, and while we recommend them as well, they still can’t brush with the complexity and novelty of the original. If you’re not big on playing old games, install some mods like Deus Ex Revision, and give it a shot.

Hitman

After Hitman: Absolution, it seemed that Blood Money would stay the golden standard for silly stealth sandbox shenanigans indefinitely, but IO Interactive surprised us all with Hitman’s new episodic format. For the better part of 2016, we were treated with a new level every month, each featuring a different setting, layout, and pocket universe of NPCs going about their clockwork lives. Agent 47 is the screwdriver you get to jam in wherever you choose. Watching the mechanism break around you (and reacting to it when things go wrong) is central to Hitman’s charm.I like the way Phil put it in his season review: “Strip away the theme and fantasy, and you're left with a diorama of moving parts—a seemingly perfect system of loops, each intersecting to create a complex scene. It's left to you to decide how you want to break it—whether it's by surgically removing key actors, or by violently smashing it all up with guns, bombs and a stuffed moose.”

Supported with a steady stream of updates, including temporary Elusive Targets and remixed levels, it’s still possible to play the entirety of season one in new ways (and season two is already in development). We might be getting a steady stream of Hitman forever, and videogames are better for it.

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

In the years since Chaos Theory, Splinter Cell and the majority of stealth games have veered from a focus on purely covert scenarios, and it’s easy to see why. Chaos Theory is a complex, punishing stealth game whose gratification is severely delayed (for the better). Getting through an area without a soul knowing takes pounds of patience and observation, and getting caught is not easy to recover from. It was a slow, arduous crawl, but a crawl unlike any other in the genre, with a level of realism we haven’t seen since. 

Accompanied by a Sam Fisher at peak Jerk Cowboy, as difficult as it was, we laughed through the pain. The multiplayer was also a bold experiment in asymmetry at the time, pitting Sam-Fishery spies against first-person shooting soldiers in a tense game of hide and seek.

Thief 2

Alongside Deus Ex, the Thief series introduced new variables to stealth games that have since been adopted as a standard nearly across the board. Using light and shadow as central to your visibility, Thief made stealth much more than the visible-or-not dichotomy of implied vision cones. 

The Thief series is still unparalleled in the subtlety of its narrative and environmental design. Jody Macgregor sums it up in a piece on the very subject: “Thief II ramps up the number of secrets within each level, but even with as many as a dozen hidden rooms and stashes to discover their placement is always just as subtle. A shooting range conceals a lever among the arrows embedded in the wall behind the targets, a bookshelf is slightly out of alignment, a glint of light pokes through the edge of a stone in a wall. Compare that to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which sometimes hides one of the many ducts you can climb into behind a crate but more often plonks them into the corner of rooms beside a neon sculpture.”

The first two Thief games are interchangeable as the ‘best’ for most players, so be sure to play them both, but the second takes the cake as a best-of recommendation for working out some UI and AI kinks from the original. But with both games, install a few mods and it’s fairly simple to make them easier on the eyes and our modern design sensibilities. 

Mark of the Ninja

The biggest challenge facing stealth games has always been how to communicate whether or not you’re visible to enemies. While we’re still working out the kinks in 3D games, Mark of the Ninja solved just about every problem with two dimensions. 

Through clear UI cues, it’s easy to tell how much noise you’re making, whether or not a guard can hear it, and what spaces in the environment are completely safe to hide. There’s almost no room for error, at least in how you interpret the environment and your stealthy (or not) status within it. Accompanied by swift, springy platforming control and a robust ninja ability upgrade tree, by the end of Mark of the Ninja the challenge reaches high, but so too does your skill.

Dishonored 2

What surprised me most about Dishonored 2 is the density of its level design. Like other stealthy immersive sims, it features huge levels with any number of potential routes for getting through, but Dishonored 2 is the first to make me want to see every inconsequential alleyway. Nearly every space is as detailed as a room in Gone Home, decorated with natural props and people that tell a specific story. 

There are more systems and choices than ever, and while you explore, how you dispose of or sneak by guards is a playful exercise in self-expression and experimentation. Emily and Corvo have their own unique abilities, and a single playthrough won’t get you all their powers. Summon eldritch tentacle arms to fling psychically chained enemies into the sea, or freeze time and possess a corpse during for a particularly, uh, daring escape. Just make sure not to miss Sokolov’s adventure journals, they’re a treat.

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

I think The Phantom Pain’s appeal is best summarized by how everything going wrong typically means everything is actually going well. Samuel’s anecdote from his review is a perfect example: “I forfeited a perfect kill-free stealth run of one mission because I couldn’t get a good enough sniper angle on my target before he took off in a chopper. Sprinting up flights of stairs to the helipad, my victim spotted me just in time for me to throw every grenade in my inventory under the chopper, destroying it, vanquishing him and knocking me over, before I made a ludicrously frantic escape on horseback. It was amazing, and I’m not sure it would’ve been vastly improved had I silently shot the guy and snuck out.” Wish I could’ve seen it, Sam.

For a series to go from weighed down by cutscenes, spouting nonsense about nuclear war and secret Cold War contracts with a few simple stealth sequences to a full blown open world stealth sandbox masterpiece (and on the PC too) was quite the surprise. As a silent Big Boss, there are hundreds of hours of wide open stealth scenarios to tackle in MGS5, despite its thinner second chapter. Systemically, this is one of the most surprising stealth games ever made, and as bittersweet a swan song as Kojima could leave us with before departing Konami for good.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

It took me six months to finish Amnesia. It doesn’t allow you to play stealth games the way you’re used to, and by removing old habits, so goes your sense of security. The sanity mechanic intentionally denies you your habits by distorting your view and slowing down your character while looking at a patrolling enemy monster. Lovely, beautiful, safe, warm light also plays a part. The darker an environment, the sooner you’ll lose sanity, but if you whip out a lantern, guess who’s going to spot it? That gross bag of skin patrolling the halls. The enemy AI isn’t particularly smart or surprising, but in an atmosphere as rich as Amnesia’s you’ll think they were put on this earth to hunt you down, specifically. If you can stomach the scares, it’s a must.

Alien: Isolation

More than an incredible homage to ‘70s futuretech and the world of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece in horror, Alien: Isolation’s chief antagonist is a major step forward in first-person stealth horror design. The alien is a constant, erratic threat. It actively hunts you, listening for every small noise and clue of your presence, hiding in wait above for a sneak attack or—what’s that sprouting from your chest? Nice try. But besides the accomplished alien AI, Isolation makes good on its 25-hour playtime by constantly switching things up. 

As Andy Kelly wrote in his review, “In one level you might lose the use of your motion tracker. In another, the alien won't be around so you can merrily shotgun androids like it's Doom 3. Then your weapons will be taken away, forcing you to make smart use of your gadgets. It does this all the way through, forcing you to adapt and readapt to different circumstances, using all the tools at your disposal.” Alien: Isolation is both a striking, authentic homage to the films, and a consistently creative stealth gauntlet. If you don’t mind getting spooked, don’t miss it.

Invisible, Inc

Invisible, Inc nails the slow tension and tactical consideration of XCOM, but places an emphasis on subversion of enemies and security placements rather than direct confrontation. You’re not an overwhelming offensive force, and getting spotted almost always spells your doom. 

Chris puts it well in our Best Design award from 2015: “To the stealth sim, it introduces completely transparent rules. You always know what your options are, what the likely results of your actions will be, and your choices are always mitigated by resources that you have complete control over. There’s no chance failure, and very little trial and error. You either learn to make all of these totally-fair systems dance, or you fail.”

The turned based format means you get unlimited time to make a decision that would take a split second in a real time stealth game, but because of the extra space for consideration, Invisible Inc. piles on the systems, making every infiltration a true challenge, but one comprised of fair, transparent rule sets. Dishonored may test your sneaking reflexes, but do you have the deep smarts to be a spy? Invisible, Inc will let you know one way or the other.

PC Gamer

Frictional Games' first-person horror hit Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and The Chinese Room's more meditative follow-up A Machine For Pigs, are getting a little long in the tooth. But Frictional has put new betas for both games on Steam that might be enough to convince determined cheevo-chasers to have another go at them.

It's a minor thing, and I'm not sure I'm up for another trip through the bowels of either Amnesia game, to be honest: Not just for the obvious reasons, but also because I worry a bit that they may not hold up quite as well as I remember, and it would be a shame to diminish those experiences with a replay I'm not all that terribly interested in to begin with. Then again, I do like achievements. Quite a quandary.

There are 17 Dark Descent achievements, ranging from from the mundane (Read all the notes) to the vague ("NOPE: Left when things were getting interesting.") A Machine For Pigs has just seven achievements, which seem to be dependent solely on progress through the game.

Frictional said the Steam achievements will be rolled out to all players in a few days, as long as no serious technical issues come up. For now, you can access the beta build by right-clicking either game in your Steam library, then selecting Properties, the Betas tab, and then "Achievement Beta" from the drop-down menu.

Community Announcements - Pattumiera
Apparently something went wrong on the previous update, making it a bit difficult to run total conversion mods out of the box. Version 1.311 addresses that issue so you don't have to hack stuff to make them work.

Changelist:
- Launcher checks for the 'DefaultMainSettingsSDL2' entry in the init config file passed as argument and falls back to the game's default if not present.
- Game checks for the 'DefaultMainSettingsSDL2' and 'DefaultUserKeysSDL2' entries in the init config file passed as argument and falls back to the game's default if not present.
- Added "steam_appid.txt" file to make it possible to run the game exe outside Steam.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

These are my personal Edwin Droods. Stories that I’ve failed to finish, for one reason or another, and that are left suspended. In the manner of somebody reversing out of a relationship like a heavy goods vehicle, trundling slowly and beeping nonchalantly, I’d like to say to the games included: It’s not you, it’s me. >

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

While Frictional are exploring the depths of consciousness in their latest creep-fest Soma, other developers are continuing the story they began in Penumbra [official site] all those years ago. A team going by the name CounterCurrent Games released an unofficial total conversion going by the name Necrologue last Halloween and this year they finished the story with the fantastically-named Twilight of the Archaic [official site]. Just look at that title for a few seconds. It’s magnificent. The games are built on Amnesia: The Dark Descent so you’ll need that to play, and can then download both Necrologue and Teatime of the Archaic from ModDB or through Steam.

… [visit site to read more]

...

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